finding myself in the midst of grief

It’s official, I am a certified yoga instructor.

It all started a few years ago when I began my practice seeking peace in the chaos of caregiving. It was an attempt to do something physical and regain some flexibility I lost when I quit dancing.

I danced all the way from middle school through college, even teaching dance before Jayden was born. But then life happened. I made lots of excuses (some that made sense) for laying down this part of me.

I allowed the dancer in me to atrophy.

When J and B passed, it felt like a bomb went off and I have been standing at ground zero trying to know where to go from here.

“Am I breathing?” Yes. Barely.

“Am I hurt?” Yes, but I fear you can’t see it, so I say no. There is no place to point to, it just— hurts.

My ears are ringing as I survey the damage. It’s as if I am the only one moving in slow motion.

Someone asks, “Are you OK?” I don’t know how to answer. I am. I am not. I am here, my children are not. Not physically, anyway. How do I move from this place?

Every so faintly, my soul whispers: with.

“Where do I go from here?” Nowhere. It’s all right here. I start still.

Movement begins with my breath.

Slowly.

Deeply.

From the center of the chaos.

I am aware of my breath.

 

Next, I become aware of my foundation. In yoga, that’s the mat. Peace on my mat. Peace in my practice. I showed up broken and that is enough. I don’t have to be anything I am not. I close my eyes.  I don’t run. I sit in it. I weep. And it is here, in the stillness I find myself.

Here. I. Am.

My body asks to move. I listen. My body experiences the physical sensation of pain. It hurts. There it is. I can finally point to it. It feels good to hurt because I can breathe through it.  It should hurt and that makes sense to me.

I begin to recognize I am stronger the more I practice.

It is here, on the mat, He meets me. In Him I live and move and have my being. I am His beloved daughter. I humbly receive His love. He sees my pain and meets me though my movement. He strengthens me in the waiting. He dwells within and He is my foundation.

Everyday, returning to my mat, returning to my awareness of His presence.

Like yoga, faith is a practice.

A process.

An invitation.

In January, I asked Tanner (Justin’s cousin who came home to open Homeroots Cross Fit gym) if he would help me get stronger on one condition, I wouldn’t get big muscles. He chuckled. That wouldn’t happen with 15 lb weights twice a week, he told me. I thought I’d last 2 weeks, I mean, I am a yogi not a strong CrossFit gal. But I kept showing up, meeting my pain in new ways- aggressive and exhausting-pushing me to new edges-and discovering yet again, it is in my weakness I am becoming strong.

It’s never been about the physical appearance of my body. It’s been about cultivating my spiritual journey-mind, body, spirit, and soul. So when I heard there was a yoga training instructor training taught from a Biblical world-view, coming to my hometown of all places, I said yes. Eight days. 16 hours a day. 100 hours of online work. And that’s where I have been the last week.

I wanted to add this to my toolbox because as I have been living the questions, cracking open in the dark, doing my work, I have finally figured out what I have been called to do: I am a guide. I have been purposed by God to create and hold space for people to be with God, whether that’s through spiritual direction, Bible study, speaking, writing, or yoga-big groups, small groups or 1:1.  I create space for people to do their own work, in their own practice of faith. It’s what I was made to do. It’s what I’ve always done. It’s just all coming together so clearly for me now. I know-maybe for the first time in my life-who I am. I am His beloved. I am becoming. I find myself and God in my practice, on and off the mat.

And it is good.

Clippings, Lashes and Lament

I cut Brooklyn’s hair.

When she passed, I wanted something physical to touch. 

But when Jayden passed, his hair was short, so I kept a few of his last fingernail clippings and an eyelash that had fallen onto his cheek. It’s in a drawer next to his his bed-right next to some cards we received, a beautiful rock with his name on it, and a tag from a pug toy Ellie and I found shopping one day that said “JJ.” I know. Nail clippings? Gross.

Weird, a bit creepy, and gross. 

Well, maybe not to those of us who have lost a loved one. Or had a child and kept their first tooth. Or to a grown woman who still sleeps with a blankie. 

We are physical beings who naturally gravitate towards physical reminders. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about earth. There are glimpses of God all around. Hints in seasons, and the created, refections in the people we meet. In the Words He left for us on a page, truths He is still speaking, and wonders for us to still uncover. 

After J and B passed, their space and things become a bit more precious, sacred even. I don’t let people into those spaces much for that reason. But a few nights ago, I did. Two dear friends were over and it just felt right to show them Jayden’s clippings and eyelash, delicately wrapped in a tear soaked Kleenex in the drawer. 

They let me guide them into the space. They cried for me. They didn’t talk, they just went with me into the holy temple of mourning. They didn’t throw Bible verses at me, even though they are two of the holiest women I know. And, they didn’t make jokes to ease the tension. They just held it silently for me and let me lead.

A few weeks later, they came up to me with a gift: little plastic ziplock bags. “To keep your reminders safe. You know, so you don’t lose what’s in that Kleenex.” It was one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever received. The bags, sure, but even more, that they saw me, sat with me, and said my lament was “good.”

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One year after the funeral: Comments on Light, Comfort, and Community

“The ceiling is sagging mom,” Ellie said to me when she came up from the basement and saw all the people.

Our small group came, just hours after landing from their trip to Israel. Our church friends came. Family was here. Kelly and Finley made the drive from Roscoe. Teachers and bus drivers came. 

Linda, his buddy from our special needs program at church, told me what a gift my son was. He changed her life without words. His silent presence, a most precious gift. 

Tom, his bus driver, told me he still had a items in his home to remind him of Jayden. 

All these seemingly disconnected people-connected by love for one little boy. We swapped stories, snot and tears. We laughed. We watched the video from his funeral. Justin cried as he read 2 Corinthians 4, giving permission for others to cry with us. Then, in the bitter cold, (as we prayed all the unsupervised kids destroying the basement had on coats and shoes) we lit up our fence, light by light: Continue reading “One year after the funeral: Comments on Light, Comfort, and Community”

Uncontainable Light: A mother’s love letter from her daughter’s funeral

Oh, beeba.

Brooklyn, Brook, Brookie, Beebs. Beeba-leebs, Beiber, Leeber, Beezel. Sweet B. B. One name couldn’t contain you, but that’s your story, your light was not meant to be contained.

I can’t believe you’re gone.
I can’t believe I am standing here so soon.

Again.

Actually, I can.
You always did things your way and on your time. Continue reading “Uncontainable Light: A mother’s love letter from her daughter’s funeral”

Everlasting Joy: A father’s reflections from his daughter’s funeral

Right after Brooklyn passed, a family friend printed off some pictures from when Brooklyn was younger during a season Justin volunteered with One-on-One, a inner-city Zion basketball camp. During camp, I would bring the kids up and they would run around and make friends with all the coaches and players. Jayden would dribble balls and shoot hoops, Brooklyn would dance and sing.

One of the pictures, now a bookmark in Justin’s Bible, is a picture of B wearing a shirt that says, “My heart belongs to Dad.” Sometimes, I find him fighting tears as he looks at it. They sure share a special bond.

I am not sure if this is true of every family, but it feels true for us. There’s just something different about the bond shared between a mother and a son, a father and a daughter. Not better or worse, more or less, just different. A boy needs his mom and a girl needs her dad. (I know both need both, but you get it.)

Maybe it has to do with protection. A dad protects his girl and raises his son to be a protector. A mother protects her son and raises her daughter to be a protector. Maybe it’s simply because Jayden was like his dad, and Brooklyn was a lot like me.

I don’t know why, I just know it was true for us and impacts how we are grieving.

Justin’s words about his sweet B that he shared at her funeral are so precious and the lessons he learned from her are really lessons for us all. Lessons about living life to the fullest, real heroism, love, and joy.

 

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Continue reading “Everlasting Joy: A father’s reflections from his daughter’s funeral”

I can’t believe you’re gone.

I just want to be with you, B.

I can’t believe you’re gone. It’s a wave of panic that comes over me every time I let myself go there. There, to the place of full acknowledgement, painfully aware and present to your physical absence. You were the heavy in my arms, but now, they are heavier with you not in them. 

I am trying, B.

Trying to take one grace-filled step after the other. I am making my bed and trying not to crawl back in it. I am showing up and want to hide, all in the same moment. When you are newly bereaved, again, even simple things are hard.  

Continue reading “I can’t believe you’re gone.”

Lessons from our little girl: Aunt Angie’s reflections on life, love, and an unexpected calling

To say that we have been blessed by Angie’s love and presence in the life of our family wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface. If there was one person I’d change my “5” tattoo into a “6” for, it would be her. She has been present for every high and every low we have walked – from baby showers to funerals, from youth group to small group, from hospitals to hotel rooms, from green rooms to stages, from vacations to Tuesdays. Some of my best laughs and ugliest cries have been with her. She has easily become a welcome fixture on our couch and in our hearts and I couldn’t imagine doing this journey without her.

Many times we’ve prayed that Angie would marry and fulfill the desire of her heart to love and be loved in that type of relationship. We still do. But she would be the first to tell you that a person isn’t defined by their relationship status or their work, but by their Savior and by their heart.

Would we have chosen our stories at first glance — Singleness or Special Needs? Nope.

But looking back, I would choose it again and again. I would stand at the front of the line begging to be Jayden’s and Brooklyn’s mom, and I bet I’d find Angie, standing right next to me begging to be Aunt Ah-gee, too.

Many times we think our plans and timing are best, but when we change our focus, we can see that God has been up to something much better, all along.

Ang, you may not have chosen “Aunt Ah-Gee” over marriage if God dangled them both in front of you 12 years ago, but I am so glad He knew better than to give you a choice back then. We both would have missed watching you live out your purpose for the season J and B were physically present. We all would have missed the blessings.

We should talk about this more, shouldn’t we? Friendships, Plan B, singleness, purpose in pain….

Ang, let’s hit the road!

Seriously though, Angie. Justin and I will always pray for God to find a match for you, but we will also pray, no matter what your relationship status is, that you feel loved, that you know you belong, that you live into your purpose and calling — whatever that is in whatever season you are in — and that you know, deeply and profoundly, you matter to us. We feel honored to be sitting in the front seat to your life just as you have sat in ours.

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Here are Angie’s words from Brooklyn’s service:

Continue reading “Lessons from our little girl: Aunt Angie’s reflections on life, love, and an unexpected calling”

What do we do on Monday after the funeral?

I am so tired.
I feel how Jayden looks-smashed and buried.

This weekend, I think I experienced every emotion God made.

First grade doesn’t stop for my youngest just because her sister died. I thought I missed her open house, but it’s tonight. I thought I missed the bus time, but I remembered they post it online. I thought school started today, but it’s tomorrow.

I’m all screwed up, but God knows.

What do we do on these days?
The days after the funeral?
The days when everyone else seems to move forward and we are left picking up the pieces of our shattered life?

What do we do when the cards and casseroles stop?
When people stop saying her name? His name?
How do we answer, “How many kids do you have?”
Continue reading “What do we do on Monday after the funeral?”

Blue Jays and Laundry: What Grief Looks Like One Month After My Son Went to Heaven

“This is what the things can teach us:
to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke-

One month.

One month since Jayden has been gone.
One month closer to seeing him again.

My mind is just now beginning to clear, or maybe it’s returning to fog. I am still not sure which is more foggy, the months before and after a crisis, or the days lived in between life’s defining moments. I think it’s the latter, because every decision surrounding Jayden’s passing was so clear to me.

Continue reading “Blue Jays and Laundry: What Grief Looks Like One Month After My Son Went to Heaven”

Jayden’s Service Part 3: A Mother’s Love Letter

Thank you to all of you that came to the funeral service and for helping us remember Jayden’s influence this Thanksgiving by posting what your are thankful for using #JBThankful. We are so blessed by our community and tribe, and everyday, we find out how far reaching Jayden’s influence continues to be.

Here are my words from Jayden’s funeral:

Continue reading “Jayden’s Service Part 3: A Mother’s Love Letter”